Never easy playing Sri Lanka in its backyard, says Kohli

AFP
Top-ranked India will not take Sri Lanka lightly despite the home team's recent indifferent form as well as controversies over fitness and ethics, captain Virat Kohli insists.
AFP
AFP

Indian cricketer Shikar Dhawan poses for a 'selfie' with Sri Lankan fans as he and teammates arrive at a hotel in Colombo on July 19, 2017. India and Sri Lanka will play three tests, five one-day internationals and one T20 match in Sri Lanka between July 26 and September 6.

Top-ranked India will not take Sri Lanka lightly despite the home team's recent indifferent form as well as controversies over fitness and ethics, captain Virat Kohli said on Thursday.

Sri Lanka, languishing at the seventh position in test rankings, survived a scare this week to win a one-off test against Zimbabwe but not before going down to the minnow in the preceding one-day series.

The players have also been criticized in recent days by the country's sports minister for being overweight and unfit.

And on Wednesday, the team found itself in a fresh controversy after the minister said he supported an investigation into the country's controversial 2011 World Cup loss against India, amid fresh allegations of match-fixing.

Kohli, the firebrand Indian skipper, nevertheless said he respected the opposition and would not take them for granted.

"It is never easy playing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka," Kohli said after the team arrived in Colombo for its first full series against its South Asian neighbor in eight years.

The sides will play three tests, five one-day internationals and one T20 in what is their first series involving all three formats of the game since 2009.

India has fond memories from its last visit in 2015 which saw it win 2-1, setting in motion a test match winning spree that saw it clinch victories against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.

Kohli said the Galle test which India lost by 63 runs proved to be the turning point in the team's fortunes.

"After losing that test in Galle, it was quite a dent mentally," Kohli told reporters. "But how the team came together (after that) was iconic.

"I still believe and everyone in the team believes and knows that this (Sri Lanka) is where it all started for us."

Sri Lanka's Upul Tharanga, who is the skipper for the shorter versions of the game, said he was hopeful the team will pull through despite recent setbacks.

Tharanga is also standing in for test skipper Dinesh Chandimal who is down with an attack of flu, officials said.

"We are training hard... this is an opportunity for us to play against the world's No. 1 team and show where we stand in test cricket," Tharanga said.

The first test begins on Wednesday, July 26, in Galle.

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